The Truth About Baby Probiotics: What You Need to Know

Find out how infant probiotics can improve baby’s long-term health, plus discover which baby probiotics are best.

Wondering about probiotics for infants? Probiotics can improve baby's long term health. Here's why they are so important, plus and which ones are the best.

You probably know that what you feed your baby is important. From breastfeeding to starting solids, to getting them to eat vegetables, you’re making sure baby is healthy from day one.

But in some cases, we may need to do more. Baby probiotics, whether in food or supplement form, just might be one of the best things you can give baby to support his or her health.

Best baby probiotics – quick recommendations

Keep scrolling through this post and you’ll see I recommend foods as well as baby probiotics as the best way to provide beneficial bacteria. But if you’re looking for a quick overview of the supplements I recommend, here you go.

What Are Baby Probiotics?

A probiotic is a live bacteria that provides health benefits, particularly for your gut.

Baby probiotics are exactly what they sound like—probiotics that are safe and specially formulated for babies.

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Why Are Probiotics Important?

Let’s back up for a second to talk about why you’d want to take probiotics.

Our bodies are full of bacteria. And although that may sound like a bad thing, less than one percent of bacteria makes us sick. (source) Other bacteria in our systems are considered “good bacteria,” since they are vital for our bodies to function and play a key role in keeping us healthy.

Probiotics ensure that our systems have enough good bacteria to function the way they are intended to.

Do Babies Need Probiotics?

Amniotic fluid is not sterile—it’s your baby’s first introduction to bacteria. And the kind of bacteria in the amniotic fluid is influenced by mom’s gut and oral flora.

In a perfect world, moms would have great flora to pass onto their babies. But over the last century, we have been subjected to antibiotics, GMOs, sugary/starchy diets, and lots of processed foods—all of which can degrade the gut flora passed onto our babies. 

Baby probiotics are a baby’s first line of defense, since they help to improve the balance of “good bacteria” in their body.

Benefits of Baby Probiotics

Because baby probiotics increase the amount of good bacteria in the body, they do wonders for overall health, but are especially helpful for:

âś” Digestive issues

Without the proper balance of gut bacteria, baby may have colic, acid reflux, constipation, diarrhea, or develop more serious digestive issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s Disease. A study found that fecal transplant in adults (placing a bit of “healthy” poo into the colon of an unhealthy person) cured 91-93 percent of patients with C. difficile. This supports the idea that good gut flora can treat and prevent digestive issues—and why we may want to use probiotics for infants.

✔ Immune system issues

Eighty percent of our immune system resides in our gut, so it makes sense that sub-optimal gut flora would cause an ill-functioning immune system. When gut bacteria isn’t optimal, baby’s immune system is not going to be optimal. That means baby will be more likely to catch colds, flus, and other illnesses. We can ward off some of these issues with the use of probiotics for babies.

✔ Mood

There is a large pool of data supporting the gut-brain connection. In fact, 80-90 percent of the serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and dopamine (a neurotransmitter that helps regulate the brain’s pleasure center) in our bodies is made in our gut.

One study found that certain probiotic species reduce anxiety and depression, increase dopamine and serotonin production, and work better than conventional drugs at reducing stress-induced anxiety, depression, and cognitive dysfunction. They also work to lower cortisol and restore serotonin levels to normal.

Another study found that different gut bacteria can actually change a mouse from timid to bold and vice-versa. Further, researchers found that if corrected early enough, good bacteria could help reverse the mouse pup’s anxiety; but if they were weaned by the time they got the good bacteria, they continued to have high levels of anxiety. Of course, mouse trials don’t directly correlate to humans, but the results are interesting and support what we do know about baby’s gut flora needs.

✔ Weight problems

Probiotics for infants may even impact your baby’s weight. (Strange as it sounds!) One study found that mice with a TLR5 deficiency (a protein that keeps gut flora balanced) had excessive weight gain, insulin resistance, diabetes, and fatty liver disease. What was really interesting is that the researchers transplanted some fecal matter from the overweight mice to skinny mice and the skinny mice started eating more, gaining weight, and eventually developed the metabolic issues of the TLR5 deficient mice. Long story short, the weight and metabolic issues of these mice were a direct result of bad gut bacteria.

✔ Skin issues

Baby’s skin is particularly sensitive and some sources say that baby skin issues like baby eczema, cradle cap, and baby acne are caused by imbalanced gut flora. Studies suggest supplementing with with L. rhamnosus, L. paracasei , and B. longum while pregnant and nursing can significantly reduce the risk of eczema in infants.

This is further supported by countless studies that prove a correlation between acne and digestive issues. In fact, acne patients have considerably more leaky gut issues and inflammation than those without acne. Another study found that suboptimal gut flora also contributed to the skin being less efficient as a protective organ and more susceptible to inflammation and infection.

Best Baby Probiotics

There are two main types of baby probiotics: powdered and liquid. Powdered baby probiotics are more prevalent, but some parents find it easier to administer liquid probiotics with a syringe or dropper.

Here are four baby probiotics that I can recommend.

Best strains of probiotics for babies

Researchers of an Australian study found that the best probiotics for infants were ones that included 2-3 strains or species of probiotics (instead of just one). Here are the top three to look for:

1. B. bifidum is one of the first strains to colonize baby’s intestines and adheres to the intestinal wall better than other strains. It continues to be an important bacteria for digestion and nutrient absorption. It may help with infant skin conditions like baby eczema and yeast infections. It may also help with infant digestive issues such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), IBS, constipation, diarrhea, and even lung infections.

2. B. infantis is the strain that is most prevalent and powerful in infants and declines as we age. In fact, a new (and alarming) study shows that this strain may be going extinct in the Western world. This is a huge issue, as it crowds out pathogenic bacteria and helps with overall health and digestion. One review found that B. Infantis can reduce inflammation and support immune function.

3. L. reuteri is a strain that has been found to have many benefits for young children and infants. One study found that children ages 6 months to 3 years who took supplemental L. rheuteri had nearly one third fewer cases of diarrhea and half as many respiratory infections. Another study suggests that L. rheuteri is an excellent treatment for colic. It was also found to reduce the levels of bacteria that cause tooth decay!

How to Give Probiotics to Infants

Always, always, always talk to your pediatrician before giving baby any supplement. Also, always start slow with probiotics and watch for any bowel or behavior changes.

There are a few ways you can provide baby with probiotics:

How to give baby powdered probiotics

  • Following the dosage suggestions on the particular product, add powdered probiotics to breast milk or formula.
  • Alternatively, you can put the powdered probiotics directly on your breasts before feeding. To do so, apply my DIY nipple cream, then sprinkle the probiotic powder directly on top.
  • When baby is eating solids, mix powdered probiotics into baby’s water cup or food.

How to give baby liquid probiotics

  • Following the dosage suggestions on the particular product, add liquid probiotics to a little breast milk or formula.
  • Alternatively, use a syringe to put liquid probiotics directly into baby’s mouth. This way baby is not getting any additional water (which can cause an imbalance in his or her electrolytes).

Other Great Sources of Probiotics for Infants

In addition to probiotic supplements, baby can great probiotics from:

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the best way to keep baby’s gut lining intact and healthy. Your milk will supply baby with probiotics and immunoglobulin A (IgA), which helps seal the gut lining. For the greatest benefits, consume plenty of probiotic-rich fermented foods, like kefir, raw sauerkraut and pickles, yogurt, miso, etc. This will help enrich your own bacterial balance, which will help your milk and baby.

And if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed, there are formula options that can still help keep baby’s gut healthy.

Breast milk yogurt

Food is the best way to boost your good bacteria, especially for young children with delicate systems.

Obviously, we can’t give babies true solids until around 6 months old, but we can give them one food at a very young age: Breast milk yogurt.

  • Mix about an ounce of breast milk with 1/8 teaspoon of infant probiotics.
  • Let the mixture sit on the counter overnight.
  • Feed to baby with a spoon.

Of course, always check with your child’s pediatrician before giving to your child.

Fermented foods

When baby is old enough for solids, add naturally-fermented foods to his or her diet. Feeding them early will help baby develop a taste for sour and fermented foods.

  • Start with just the juice of these probiotic powerhouses—sauerkraut or pickle juice, for example. Use a spoon or mix them into puree.
  • As baby gets use to solids, add in small amounts of kefir or yogurt.
  • Gradually continue introducing other fermented foods, eventually serving baby all the fermented foods you love.

Common Questions About Baby Probiotics

Are probiotics safe for infants?

Studies show that probiotics are not only safe, but very effective in reducing daily crying time, spit up, and constipation during the first three months of life.

Probiotics or prebiotics added to infant formula and other foods marketed for use in children do not appear to be harmful to healthy infants and children. – AAP

Still, it is very important to talk to your pediatrician before giving baby anything but breast milk.

Can probiotics cause upset tummies in babies?

Quite the contrary. Clinical trials suggest baby probiotics actually soothe upset tummies. In fact, babies taking probiotics had fewer emergency department visits, needed less medication for stomach problems, had more regular bowel movements, and spit up less.

Can baby probiotics cause gas?

According to researchers, probiotics may actually help reduce gas in babies. Studies suggest babies the bacterial makeup is different in the stomachs of babies with colic, and researchers hypothesize that these differences may cause gas, bloating, and discomfort that leads to colic.

In a review of 12 studies to examine the effects of probiotics, researchers found that infants taking probiotics cried for about an hour less each day—possibly as a result of less gas pain.

Can you give a baby too much probiotics?

Always follow the dosage information on your probiotic supplement, and be sure to get your doctor’s approval.

It may, however, give you peace of mind to know that, according to the AAFP, “there is no evidence that higher dosages are unsafe; however, they may be more expensive and unnecessary.”

Bottom Line on Probiotics for Infants

Imbalanced gut flora can be inherited, and may cause serious health issues in the future. Adding probiotics for infants to baby’s diet, either through food or supplementation, can help your baby have the best possible start.

References

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4522824/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22981952
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24100440
  • https://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/09/gut-feeling.aspx
  • https://www.aafp.org/afp/2008/1101/p1073.html
  • https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/891.html
Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 85,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

Elisa Song MD Pediatric Reviewer Mama Natural

Reviewed By
Elisa Song, MD

Elisa Song, MD is a board-certified pediatrician, wife, and mother of two. As one of the country’s most highly regarded holistic pediatricians, Dr. Song founded Healthy Kids Happy Kids to empower parents to take charge of their kids’ health naturally!

Kendra Tolbert MS RDN registered dietitian nutritionist square

Reviewed By
Kendra Tolbert, MS, RDN

Kendra Tolbert, MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in preconception and reproductive health nutrition. She completed her Master’s degree in Nutrition and Public Health at Teachers College, Columbia University.

49 Comments

  1. Thank you for your recommendations. If I am taking probiotics myself and I’m breastfeeding my baby, do I still give my infant probiotics or she gets it from my breastmilk? Thank you!

  2. Im confused. I thought breast milk is only good up to 4 hours outside of the fridge. Is it safe because of the probiotic? I’m wanting to make this for my daughter, I just want to get clarification first. Thank you 🙂

  3. Hi, it is ok to take my prenatal vitamin with a meal of I am also taking digestive enzymes with hcl with that meal? or does the hcl compromise the absorption of the prenatal?

  4. What about the Jamieson brand of infant probiotics?

  5. I was wondering how long we should give our babies probiotics. My little one has antibiotics pump into him from birth for 2 days. I was not advised on a probiotic but decided to give him this as he had stomach issues. He is now 17 weeks and I haven’t given him any for about 4 weeks now. He seems to be struggling with his tummy again. I guess what I am asking is would he need to supplement for life? When will his own gut bacteria start working?

    • I wonder this too ?

    • Following. It sounds like a great start and then till when? For life?

  6. Hey Mama – love this post. Thanks for sharing this and all the other great advice. Just wanted to share that I recently learned maltodextrin is bad for the gut and should be avoided. I noticed that the Flora brand had maltodextrin as an extra ingredient so wanted to pass on.

  7. Hi Genevieve!
    I love this article and recommend it to whomever I run into, thanks!
    I got the Probonix for my new born and started giving it to my toddler, he miraculously improved a lot (in just a few days) with food allergies/sensitivities he was having.
    Now I was going to re-order and saw one for pregnant women, LoveBug, Labor of Love and thought you could check it out, because it might be helpful for moms to be. I tried to have as many probiotics as possible while pregnant and I think it helped because my third baby is much less sensitive than my older two were.

    • Also, between Probonix and Klaire Labs, which one do you like better? (My newborn doesn’t like the acidity of Probonix but I still think its easier than the powder).

  8. I recently read that one 6oz. serving of fermented kraut has more probiotics than a whole container of probiotic supplements and read the research to back it up. I’m going to save myself the cost from now on be diligent about eating a serving of fermented food with every meal.

  9. Mothers will surely love reading this article. It mentioned a lot of tips on how to make sure that their baby is taking the proper probiotics. It will be less worries for moms to think of what to give to their child.

  10. Mothers will surely love reading this article. It mentioned a lot of tips on how to make sure that their baby is taking the proper probiotics. It will be less worries for moms to think of what to give to their child.

  11. Wow yogurt by using breastmilk, this is brilliant. I always make yogurt at home and I recently had a baby who is a bit colicky so I was unsure of buying a “probiotic drop” from store. Came across your website and your idea of yogurt from breastmilk is amazing. I am definitely gonna try.

  12. Hi,
    I recently purchased the Probonix liquid probiotics drops for my 5 week old who seems to be having some gas and tummy issues. He also was a c section baby so I want to boost his good bacteria. The Probonix one seemed like the best option out there but then I noticed it has stevia in it. My gut is telling me you shouldn’t give stevia to a tiny baby. Thoughts?

  13. Hello,
    When my daughter was 2 weeks old I began giving her the Gerber probiotic which helped immensely with her colic. I stopped giving them when she was about 12 weeks old because she was no longer having problems. I did not realize at the time the benefits of the strain L. rheuteri so now I wan’t to start her and my toddler on probiotics. Above you mentioned the top 3 strains of probiotics however I can only find probiotics that have either just L. rheuteri or ones that contain B. infantis, B. bifidum and some other strains but no L. rheuteri. The probiotics you listed do not show L. rheuteri. Am I missing something or could L. rheuteri be listed under another name? Thank you for your help.

    Chelsee.

    • The first one listed is a liquid drop w. L. Rhuetri and the other two, bifidum and infantis. Or u can do the last option w. Udo Flora and add in Natures way rhueteri powder.

      • L. Rheuteri and reuteri is the same. The liquid drop info you have to scroll down to read. Its not printed directly on bottle.

  14. Hi! My babe is 1 month and seems to be having tummy issues after eating. I just ordered the liquid probiotics but there’s no dosage for babies unfortunately. It says 6 drops for babies over 30LBS, so I’m guessing if my baby is almost 9LBS she’d take1.5 – 2 drops? Just wanted to hear your recommendation 🙂 thank you!

  15. I found your site when I was looking for natural teething remedies for my 6 mo old. I have been giving him probiotics since he was 2 mo old. I looked to see what kind you recommended here. Was happy to see it is the same kind I’ve been using.

  16. can i put some of the powder from bio kult capsule in to my 11 months old baby?

  17. Hi! I’m not seeing the strain L.Rheuteri on the supplement facts of any of the suggested products that are linked in the post. Is it just assumed that its in there or is it listed as something else? Thank you!!

    • Biogaia Protectis brand has the strain you are looking for. I tried to add a picture but wouldn’t let me so google will bring it up then you know what you’re looking for. Some places you have to ask for it over the counter. Hope that helps!

  18. Hi my infant aged 1yr 9mths is suffering from eczema, would you think is a good idea if I start giving her probiotics and if you can please send me a few brands which I can go for.

  19. Thank you so much for this write up and recommendations! Probiotics at the age of 25 completely changed my life-as it turned out wheat completely ruined my gut biome and I never felt good after eating.
    Now I’m doing as much research as possible for my babies I’m expecting soon!

  20. Hi, what dosage of the Klaire Labs Infant Probiotics would you recommend for a 3 month old? I’m starting him on this probiotic since he has silent reflux and I’m hoping it will help him. I’ve read that it is a concentrated probiotic so I’m thinking it should be less than 1/4 tsp which is the recommended dosage. Also, should this be given all in at one time or should the dosage be split throughout the day? He is unfortunately taking formula so I’m thinking of putting the powder in his milk. Thanks

  21. I give my son probiotics every morning, is it then okay for him to eat and oatmeal cereal with probiotics in it?

  22. I’ve just recently found out my daughter can not tolerate milk. Advice from health food shop I bought bio kult (advanced multi-strain formula for infants with omega 3 and vitD. I’ve not started her on this yet. But was wondering should I use this an a multivitamin are is there need for both? She is 1 an has a very balanced diet although I don’t want her missing out on anything due to not having her milk intake. Thank you

  23. Serious question here, why do children need a specific probiotic? I’ve always just opened the capsule of the probiotic I take and mix it into my son’s food. ?

  24. Haven’t seen any quantity recommendations for infants ? What quantity of powdered pro-biotic should we give our 16 month old boy ?

    Thanks.

  25. Hi, I’m starting my baby on solids soon and would really like to know how you make breastmilk yogurt! When you said sitting over the counter, how long was that and at what temperature? 🙂

    • Hi, I am very interested in making breast milk yogurt too. Please share.
      Thank you.

  26. Hello there,
    I just discovered your website. Really enjoying so far there are a lot of nice topics and articles. I do have a question for you mama natural. Can I start giving my 9months old probiotics?

  27. Do you recommend one for EBF moms to take so the baby gets it in breast milk?

    • “Natren” is an excellent brand available at Whole Foods. They have adult and children’s formuals. I take the Holy Trinity version personally.

  28. I would like to start introducing probiotics to my 8 month old daughter. I eat them daily through homemade fermented foods and kombucha. I have found a powdered one I would consider giving to her, but I would honestly rather just give her something I’ve made myself at home, in food form (and also save some money). She is primarily breastfed, but is also eating fruits and veggies now. Do you think it’s ok to start giving her sauerkraut juice? What about a little kombucha? Would fermented foods be just as good as a powdered/liquid form?

  29. are powdered probiotics safe for newborns? have 2 week old. thank you for all info and knowledge sharing always!

  30. How long not do you give probiotics for? Do you give them ongoing continuously or do you give your children a course 3 times a year for instance? I can’t seem to find any advice on this and nothing on the packets/labels. Thank you in advance.

    • Every day continuously. We all have them daily in my house, not just kids. If that’s too much for you give as often as possible, but I find it’s easier to have the daily habit.

    • Also especially if there’s ever a true need for antibiotics. For that I always keep a bottle of Saccharomyces Boulardii (also by Klaire Labs) which is one of the few strains that survive antibiotics. It’s cheaper than buying Florastor at the drugstore (which is what I’ve done in the past when I had an unexpected need for antibiotics). Fortunately we haven’t had to use any antibiotics since we’ve boosted our probiotic and vitamin routine. We also use a chewable ENT/ Dental brand recommended by Mommypotamus, won’t link to it here.

  31. I don’t seem to find L. rheuteri listed in either of the powdered probiotics recommended?

    • It’s the last one they talk about, looks like she recommends it every three days.

  32. Do you recommend any specific probiotics for breastfeeding moms, would those probiotics pass on to the baby through breast feeding though?

  33. How early should you give baby probiotics….I have a 3 week old.

    • Once a day or whatever the bottle says 🙂

  34. I’ll be starting baby on Klaire’s infant probiotics soon and myself on their adult formula (package arrives today!). I’m hoping to undo the damage caused to my gut flora by a round of antibiotics a week before birth and a calcium-channel blocker (nifedipine) prescribed to treat my gestational hypertension that caused total constipation and likely annihilated my previously great gut health.

    In the meantime, my pediatrician suggested holding baby upright in a seated position for five minutes after the morning feed to stimulate the gastrocolic reflex. This practice has really helped jump-start daily pooping for my exclusively breastfed infant who previously went a week or even ten days without pooping. Try it!

  35. Have you ever used the Garden of Life Raw probiotics for kids? That’s what I’m currently using, just because I use some of their other products.

  36. Do you have a brand that you would recommend for a toddler? My son is 3 and we desperately need some.


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